Pivot Your Career: Two Women Leaders In Manufacturing Model the Moves

On her high school basketball team playing in the position of forward, Janet Lynch learned the value of a pivot.Now a plant manager for CertainTeed Corp., a North American manufacturer of building materials, Lynch says one of the best lessons she has learned as a leader is the value of keeping one foot grounded in your skillset, while moving in a new direction.She embraces the career pivot and recommends it to every woman seeking leadership.As plant manager for the siding facility in the company’s McPherson, Kansas for the past six years, Lynch oversees 85 employees and has been innovative in implementing flex time and creating a culture of engagement and inclusion for her employees.[bctt tweet=”#Leaders should keep one foot grounded in their skillset, while moving in a new direction” username=“takeleadwomen”]“We had to figure out how to have flexible schedules with 12 hour shifts, seven days a week. We put together a flex program to allow anyone the flex hours to accommodate anything.”Beginning with a career in retail for John Wanamaker in Philadelphia, Lynch says she had a mentor who was the store manager who took an interest in her career. This is where she also learned the value of pivot. Later shifting to supply chain management at Ikea, Lynch has been with CertainTeed for 17 years.At the plant she manages, she says she has shifted the culture from one where “people are taught to do it and when do it,” “to one where they are highly engaged.”“Our culture separates us from most everyone else,” Lynch says. “My job is to ask questions. We ask them what they think and how they do the job.”Still, she says, attracting and recruiting women leaders into careers in manufacturing is a challenge. Though manufacturing offers a competitive wage, Lynch says it is hard to “get women interested in coming to manufacturing environment that is not cutting edge or physically attractive.”[bctt tweet=“Attracting and recruiting #womenleaders into careers in manufacturing is a challenge” username=“takeleadwomen”]She adds, coming out of college, where women make up the majority of graduates, then, “How do you get women willing to come into an industry that is 75 percent male, 25 percent female?”The latest numbers of women in manufacturing are only slightly better than that.“Women make up nearly half of the U.S. labor force but only about 29 percent of the manufacturing workforce, according to a recent study, Women in Manufacturing: Stepping up to make an impact that matters,” writes Casey Smith in Tulsa World. “It’s not just a shortage of women in manufacturing, the survey indicated. The industry is also facing a mismatch between the skills of available workers and the skills needed that could result in 2 million of its 3.5 million jobs going unfilled,” Smith writes.“At The Manufacturing Institute, they believe that addressing the gender gap is a critical strategy for closing the skills gap, said AJ Jorgenson, assistant vice president of strategic engagement for the nonprofit affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers,” according to Smith.The study from Deloitte and APICS “points to how companies can effectively recruit, retain, and advance talented women in manufacturing, and illustrates ways that women in manufacturing are making an impact in the industry through programs like STEP (science, technology, engineering, and production) Ahead, according to Today’s Medical Developments.This study also found that 70 percent of women indicate they would stay in manufacturing if they were to start their career today. Some of the most important employment characteristics for women in manufacturing include opportunities for challenging and interesting assignments, attractive pay, and work-life balance, according to the study. Formal and informal mentorship will also help, as are leaders who serve as role models in manufacturing.Pamela Schechter, president and general manager of CertainTeed’s Siding products group at the company headquarters in Malvern. Pa., is that role model for many women in the company of 10,000.Schechter also has her own experience with pivots. She graduated from college with an engineering degree, but did not want to go into engineering. After earning her MBA at New York University, Schechter says she was a financial analyst, working for Honeywell for many years, before coming to CertainTeed.“For women in leadership, you need to take those lateral moves, these pivots and do something slightly different,” Schechter says.“Be open minded and be willing to go across the organization,” Schechter says.And yes, as women leaders from a different sector you may come into a position not knowing what everyone else does. “ You have to listen. Don’t come into a situation thinking you know it all. You have to act on fact.”[bctt tweet=”#WomenLeaders from a different sector may come into a position not knowing what everyone else does” username=“takeleadwomen”]Diana Bilimoria, Professor, Chair and Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University, writes in Industry Week that unconscious bias affects women in manufacturing.“Surprisingly, these perceptions are often held by women as well as men, even though they can impede opportunities for women’s advancement. As a result, they create challenges for women in the workplace that receive relatively little attention in the conversation about equal,” Bilimoria writes.“We help make people aware through proactive efforts such as our Leadership Lab for Women in Manufacturing at Case Western.  It is our hope that unconscious bias eventually will be recognized for what it is, and will have no place in that future,” according to Bilimoria.For Schechter and Lynch, an inclusive leadership style is the work environment at CertainTeed. And for Lynch, success for a woman in manufacturing begins with the individual.“You have to develop self-awareness and know what fulfills you,” Lynch says. “Know what you enjoy and what you don’t like. Without that people tend to fail.”Now make a pivot that counts.Want more Take The Lead posts like this? Sign up to receive the Take The Lead newsletter each week. Learn more about Take The Lead training programs here.